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Faceted classification Exploring the boundaries between theory and methodology.

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1 Faceted classification Exploring the boundaries between theory and methodology

2 The place of faceted classification: faceted classification is a well recognized approach to the construction of knowledge organization systems (KOS) it has been described as the dominant approach to knowledge organization in the late twentieth century originally developed as a means of logical physical arrangement of documents it has certainly influenced many different kinds of subject organization and retrieval tools there is a parallel corpus of information on the faceted approach to web organization and retrieval


4 Faceted classification as theory: facet analysis is usually referred to as a ‘theory’ it is regarded as having logical principles and it has a body of theoretical writing its nature makes it very amenable to automated information management using database but it has been suggested that it doesn’t meet some of the criteria necessary to a ‘proper’ scientific theory should we therefore regard it simply as a useful methodology for constructing subject tools i.e. a recipe for making a cake rather than an understanding of the chemistry of baking

5 The tension between theory and method

6 What constitutes a theory? The Oxford English Dictionary defines a theory as: A scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation or account of a group of facts or phenomena; a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for the known facts; a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed. (OED online)

7 Characteristics of a theory: a theory may consist of a model which explains a phenomenon or which attempts to represent some aspect of reality ideally, it allows some extension of the model to make predictions if the model can be represented formally it should support reasoning about the phenomenon a theory ought to be put to test by scientific observation to confirm its validity a test of theory is that it should be falsifiable but it need not be accurate in every respect

8 Modelling and conceptual models: a model is a way of representing some area or field in a formal manner the model should include all entities, attributes, processes, and relationships in the field it should show how these are connected models are used in philosophy, science, social sciences, statistics, economics, and particularly in information systems design and systems architecture they help us to identify the different factors in situations and to understand how systems function in some kinds of models the model can be used to draw inferences about the system, i.e., to perform some kind of computation or calculation

9 A good example of a model:

10 Classifications as theories: many classification schemes (not just faceted ones) fulfil some of the criteria of theories as described above they can provide models of the information universe or domain it can provide an ‘explanation’ of the structure of a subject field in common with some other kinds of models it creates a map of the subject they can allow gaps to be filled in on logical principles they can be verified by reference to documentation (or information) itself through literary warrant more usually the last feature has been used to challenge the veracity of the classification model

11 Basic faceted classification structure:

12 How to construct a theory 1: traditionally, theories are based on deductive reasoning using logical principles some propositions are regarded as axiomatic, i.e. self-evident and not susceptible of proof this philosophical attitude can also be described as rationalist since it is worked on the basis of rational argument it does not normally make reference to external criteria (such as empirical evidence) much of Ranganathan’s theory is of this kind, and in fact he describes himself as having a ‘positivistic’ point of view which would align him with the logical positivists who take this approach to theory

13 How to construct a theory 2: inductive reasoning aims to build theory from observation through a process of analysing and interpreting data it may also be aligned with a post-positivist, or relativist, view of the world much scientific theory building is a hybrid of deductive and inductive methods – developing hypotheses and testing them against empirical evidence social science methodologies are often more dependent on theory building solely from data ‘second generation’ facet analysis, of the kind practised by the UK Classification Research Group, may have more in common with research methodologies of the inductive kind, meaning that the relationship between method and theory is different from the Ranganathanian model.

14 Theoretical foundations of LIS: Berwick Sayers’ canons – lay down some generally desirable features of classifications that act as principles in their construction Bliss’s Organization of Knowledge – a philosophic approach very much concerned with the order of and between classes; essentially humanistic; much influenced by Dewey (John not Melvil); speaks of authority and consensus in establishing it Ranganathan’s Prolegomena – the first attempt (bar Otlet) to take a scientific view of information; much of Ranganathan’s thinking is mathematical, and his ideas about class membership are related to set theory and theory of groups; Ranganathan is concerned with representing subject content as well as ordering it All of these theorists take a primarily deductive view Their ideas are theoretical in the sense of being abstract

15 Top-down and bottom-up-ness: enumerative classifications are often referred to as top-down, because they deal with successive subdivision of a unified information domain social classifications (folksonomies) are bottom-up in that they start with no assumptions about the structure of the domain the status of faceted classifications in this respect is often not clear the literature speaks of division using single principles which creates a ‘top-down’ impression in practice, facets are normally assembled from concepts which meet the category criteria an interesting parallel is that deductive and inductive methodologies are also referred to as ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’

16 Top-down classification structure:

17 Dewey browser used to search WorldCat:

18 Bottom-up, or emergent structure:


20 Concepts as particles: molecular model is one I have used before interesting work by van den Heuvel and Smiraglia on the universe of concepts it fits very well with the idea of a faceted classification as consisting of ‘elementary’ particles, or building blocks it’s susceptible to other analogies such as the parallel between bond types or intra-molecular forces and relationships; the dynamics of the molecule is like the syntax of a KOS

21 Assembling the facet from the bottom up: we need to determine how the process can be inductive rather than deductive depends on a close reading and analysis of the vocabulary of the domain that should be derived from the language used in the documentation itself the categorical status of each concept needs to be determined without pre-suppositions care should be take to identify new categories where these arise there is also an iterative process in examining and re- examining (particularly) compound concepts to determine how exactly they may be understood

22 Comparison with other inductive methodologies: viewed in this way, facet analysis is comparable with other generally recognized inductive methodologies it has value as general methodology beyond LIS it is essentially a particular form of content analysis it bears comparison with soft systems methodology in its identification of key concepts and root definitions – the CATWOE (clients, actors, transformation, worldview, owner, environment) formula is not unlike fundamental categories it is very similar in process to grounded theory – coding – categorization

23 Grounded theory: grounded theory method (GTM) is a way of generating a theoretical product, “a grounded theory”, which emerges from the data original purpose of GTM was to provide a systematic basis for qualitative research – it seeks reliability and validity – it has a solid core of data analysis and theory construction – it attempts to put qualitative research on a footing with quantitative work – it makes the research process visible, comprehensible, and replicable it formalises well-established analytic methods ‘long practiced, but seldom articulated, by theoretically oriented … field researchers’

24 Facet analysis and grounded theory: facet analysis and grounded theory have been compared in the past they were both regarded as reform movements challenging a traditional view of research methods they were seen as methods of dealing with large corpora of text the facet analysis examined was that of Ranganathan and the Prolegomena more recent understandings of facet analysis show even closer links in terms of process and interpretation

25 ‘Second-generation’ facet analysis on the CRG model: facet analysis as understood by the CRG is more fluid and less rigorous than Ranganathan’s theory there are more potential categories the categories are less ‘fundamental’, in some sense hybrid categories/role indicators the citation order is variable the whole operation is much more context dependent although this isn’t very well articulated, there is a powerful iterative element in the analysis (notable in Chemistry) on that basis we might reasonable consider facet analysis an inductive method

26 Facet analysis as a theory building tool: there has been some published work already regarding the value of classifications as theory building tools if FA is regarded as a type of inductive tool, then it inherits those characteristics of theory building associated with GTM theories in the form of models are built for individual domains through the process of analysis at the same time the facet theory itself may be confirmed and/or developed along new lines such inductive methods do consider themselves to have the status of theory (methodological theories?)

27 Attributes of theories which are shown by facet analysis: it is built on logical principles it provides conceptual models of subject domains these can be represented (to some extent) in formal languages as an inductive methodology it shares the theory building characteristics of other social science research theories – theory emergent from data – close reading and analysis – iterative techniques – results are replicable facet analysis marries robust methodology with sound theory


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